Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Living to Suffer - ch17

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia

Living to Suffer chapter 17
The prequel to TDDUP


By the time Shen Liangsheng got back to his post, they had also just received news from the sect, only two words: return immediately.
When they returned after travelling day and night, Miao Jan greeted them with a beaming expression. “We found it. It’s undergoing inspection in the Karyā chamber. I think this is it.” The entire entourage listened to her while heading to the chamber.

The Hsing Sect had ransacked the chianghu for these pages, but outside the chianghu things were rather calm. Although the foreign tribes were eyeing the empire hungrily, the thousand-year solidarity of the Central Plains was enough to stave off any actual inroads. The frontiers were peaceful, and the court appeared harmonious, and there had been no noteworthy event aside from someone filing a petition against the Grand Diviner a few months ago on the charge of “forming factions for personal gain.”
The Son of Heaven had complete faith in the Taoist arts of fengshui and fortune telling and placed a great deal of trust in this Diviner. He turned a blind eye to the petty political infighting and sent investigators after the party under suspicion, but when nothing came back, he let the matter slide.
Then, three months later, another secret petition was filed, this time providing ample evidence supporting its accusations that the Grand Diviner concealed a treasure map of the previous dynasty and harboured ill intent against the court.
The emperor was most afraid of his spot on the throne being threatened, and what with the pathetic national reserve, a treasure map was as good as a free lunch falling from the sky. His interest was immediately piqued. Although the accused denied all allegations, a secret tunnel and room were found in his official residence.
Reminded of the possible “ill intent,” the Son of Heaven was moved to fury. He decided he would rather risk killing the innocent than letting the guilty go, and thus the Diviner’s head tumbled to the ground. Because he had no family, there were no nine branches to extinguish. The only anomaly was that the items confiscated from the secret room vanished into thin air before even reaching the palace – an occurrence so baffling that gods or demons must have been responsible. The Son of Heaven dared not delve more deeply, only opting to calm his nerves by hiring a Taoist priest to perform an appropriate ritual.

The boundaries between court and chianghu were clear cut. The political battles were not supposed to involve the Hsing Sect in any way, but after hearing the official had lost his head because of a treasure map, they, too, decided they would rather “kill the innocent than let the guilty go” and sent men to intercept and to retrieve the entire contents of the confiscation.
“I knew those bald mules were up to no good. They didn’t have it, but the best they could manage was to set up a ruse to stall us.” After telling the whole story, Miao Jan turned to jest, “To think we’d even searched through the palace treasury twice. If only we’d thought of searching through the officials’ residences too, that would have saved us all this trouble.”
Elder Fang and Elder Wu returned a few pleasantries smilingly, and although Shen Liangsheng remained stony, that was his default, so the elders were not surprised. Only Miao Jan took a quick look at the hufa and studied his expression. Her speech flowed naturally, but her stomach knotted up.

Although the Emptiness of the Five Skandhas did not originate from Buddhism, it was written in Sanskrit. The physical pages were even more remarkable – blades could not easily damage them, nor could they be disfigured by water or fire.
The moment the train entered the chamber, they were met with the adjutant who reported, “Tests of their material have affirmed their identity. The content still remains for the hufa to decipher.”
Shen Liangsheng took the pages and, after reading them from start to finish, spared one nod and one utterance, “I implore your patience while I retrieve the full manuscript,” before leaving. Miao Jan faltered, felt an urge to follow him, but in the end did not move.
Shen Liangsheng had been responsible for the manuscript since the deputy leader had gone into isolation. Once he retrieved it and fitted the missing pages, it became clear it was a perfect match.
Since the item itself was likely real, the next step would be to find the blood trigger. Shen Liangsheng translated word for word the details regarding the vessel, his tone steady and expression calm. Listening on the side, Mian Jan also remained composed.
“The world is a big place; it is a difficult task to find the vessel with nothing but the patzu,” Elder Fang remarked with a frown. “As for the huai-meng ts’ao, we can only wait for the prey to stumble in on its own. I fear it is too late even if we release the information now.”

While Shen Liangsheng had hardly been covert about bringing Ch’in Ching to Mount Fut’u, the purpose of the trip was known only to the deputy leader, who was in isolation, and Miao Jan. Elder Fang and Elder Wu for their part had no idea such a person had ever set foot in their sect.
But even when Elder Fang finished his thoughts, Miao Jan still wore the same expression as though she knew nothing and only looked at Shen Liangsheng like the others.
’Tis not an issue. I already know the approximate location of this person. It would not do to trouble the two elders who are still tending to their wounds to make the trek once more, but the urgency of this matter begs my immediate departure.” Shen Liangsheng spoke first to the two elders, purposely avoiding Miao Jan’s eyes, before turning to her. “Miao-t’angchu, I ask that you write the other three t’angchu and request their assistance along my path. This matter allows for no errors.”
She nodded and replied, “Rest assured, Shen-hufa.” Then she stood as if rooted to the spot, watching him zip out of the building. Her thoughts didn’t come back to her until his silhouette disappeared at the end of the corridor. He didn’t even fight. He didn’t even flinch. He was so resolute that she couldn’t help but admire him.

Shen Liangsheng had never asked Ch’in Ching for the name of his master, not because he had any sort of trust in the doctor but because he had investigated long ago. The result showed that his master had only been a minor character in the chianghu who was adept in the Taoist arts. This person later entered the court as an official, Grand Diviner, and could seldom leave the palace. Thus he had little contact with people of the chianghu.
Only when Miao Jan revealed the story of page’s reacquisition did it fully hit the hufa that he had fallen into a trap that the man had laid for him.
The encounter, the rescue, the herb collection, the good-natured displays, all must have been executed with ulterior motives. Even some of the man’s words in retrospect sounded a lot like tests to probe the waters.
Only when Shen Liangsheng realized all this, he felt as calm as ever.
It was man’s instinct to seek life and avoid death. The man was only trying to find a path to life for himself and so became no different from the others who pleaded for life beneath his sword – he was not special.
If he had to describe his feelings, he would say he distinctly felt his heartbeat. Badoom badoom – its regular pace would continue as it had every day in the past and as it would every day for the foreseeable future.

Chingche[1] had passed, and spring was in its early stages. Ch’in Ching had the doors and windows open while he read, the warm breeze gently shuffling the pages. He felt a bit sleepy after bathing in sunshine for a while.
“It really is true what they say, ‘sleepy in spring and languid in fall’…” Ch’in Ching was yawning with his head propped on an arm when a hand slid out from behind and held down the fluttering page.

Ch’in Ching stared at the hand instead of turning around.
Slender and strong, white as a lily. Even though an uncountable number of lives had been slain through its agency, under the early spring sun as it lightly touched the paper its grace was equal to that of Buddha’s teachings.
Shen Liangsheng stood behind him, silent for an entire pot of tea’s time before he spoke softly, “Ch’in Ching, if only you had stayed at Shaolin, you would have had a chance at living.”
“If I had stayed, I’m afraid I would have been driven to my death first by the morals and rules being chanted in loops – like ‘To save all beings from Hell, it is I who must suffer there,’[2] or ‘Benevolence is achieved only through abandoning your own person.’ ” Ch’in Ching shook his head and brushed the hufa’s hand away closing the book. Only then did he look around. “Your so-called chance at living… Do you still remember what I had said long ago? What I desire you will not, or cannot, give me.”
“Shen-hufa, was I wrong then?”
“Shen Liangsheng, am I wrong now?”

“Then I’ll take that as a no.” Ch’in Ching rose and took a few steps back. “To be honest, I’m afraid of death, and I’m afraid of pain. Yet, even though I knew I would suffer less if I took my own life, I just wanted to see you one last time, and so I placed one last bet.”
“But only when I see you now do I realize the hardest things to let go in this world are infatuation and wild dreams.”
“I know you’re not mute. You’ve got a sharp tongue, you do.” Ch’in Ching smiled. Recovering his usual, reckless expression, he cooed warmly, “Don’t be like this, Ah-Liang.”
“I willingly exchanged one heart for another…” He took a step forward, gaze locked on the man’s, and finished, “and I willingly admit defeat.”

Shen Liangsheng held his gaze for a short while but for the first time diverted it before the doctor did. He turned to motion towards the door. “After you.”
Without delay, Ch’in Ching stepped towards the door. Falling half a step behind him, Shen Liangsheng stopped when the doctor paused at the door.
“Shen Liangsheng, it is true I’ve lied about many things to you, but within those lies there must exist some truths.”
The hufa distinctly felt his heartbeat.
“Besides, at this point there is nothing more I can repay you with, as I’ve already paid with my life.”
Badoom badoom – its pace steady and regular.
“I pray you will not hate me when you think of me in the future.”
As it had been every day in the past.
“If you do think of me, that is.”
And as it would every day in the foreseeable future
“Once we pass this door, you and I will owe each other nothing and have no more to do with each other.”

As soon as he finished, he stepped over the doorsill. Shen Liangsheng followed and stood beside him watching him slowly draw the two sides together.
No sooner had the two panels come to a close than they flew apart. Before he realized it, Ch’in Ching was dragged back into the hut and the doors slammed shut, locking away their own private world for the last time.
One man kissed the other and began wrestling with his tongue, greedily absorbing the warmth from the other. They took turns pushing each other against the door, securing this boundary between life and death.
It should have been the meeting between hatred and resentment, but now it turned into a parting between lovers… Ch’in Ching was able to muse quietly amidst the chaos that lying brings the most satisfaction only when done to the extreme.

“Shen Liangsheng,” Ch’in Ching breathed as he tidied the man’s loose strands after they broken apart. “Let me say it one last time.”
“Not to plea for life but simply because I want to do so.”
“I love you.”
The doors parted once more. The spring sun was pleasant.
Ch’in Ching took the first step out the door and into blinding sunlight.

This was a trip of vital importance, and he had to prepare for wave after wave of attacks. Bringing someone along with ch’ingkung was not the best option, which is why Shen Liangsheng had come alone on horseback. The extra weight of one man did not at all affect the speed of the return trip.
The various sects of the chianghu already had their eyes on the Hsing Sect’s movements, and now their calculations all pointed to the possibility that the vessel had been discovered. If they allowed it to return to the Hsing Sect, it would only spell disaster for the entire chianghu.

It occurred to Ch’in Ching that this was the first time that he had witnessed Shen Liangsheng taking lives.
But then again, the opposition that they encountered mostly aimed their weapons at Ch’in Ching – their goal would be accomplished as long as the blood trigger died; wounding the hufa of the Hsing Sect was another story.
The moment he witnessed it with his own eyes, Ch’in Ching found that he was scared. This man, who in the beginning allowed him to be cheeky and clingy and who later joined him in naked joy and pleasure, was in reality a weapon of destruction.
An invisible blast of ch’i would unfurl from within him like a tsunami, not sending its opponents flying but simply disintegrating them. Then amidst the snow of flesh and rain of blood, his sword danced like lightning and thunder, and those who survived the first tidal wave would fall victim to this deadly storm before even a shriek of desperation could be vocalized. In Ch’in Ching’s eyes, heaven and earth turned crimson, and the air seemed to be charged with the souls and ghouls of the murdered and their deafening screams. In reality, however, it was only the wind.
The moment he realized his fear of the man, he questioned himself coldly:
And who did you think he was, Ch’in Ching?

“Fear not,” Shen Liangsheng reassured in a gentle voice when he noticed the man in his arms was trembling. “I’m here. You will not be troubled.”
But those words only made the circumstances feel more absurd to Ch’in Ching.
Shen-hufa, did you lose your brain after killing all those people? Aren’t you ensuring my safety now only so you can take me to my death?
But the more absurd it felt, the more affectionate he had to be with his words.
“Shen Liangsheng, as you can see, there are more than enough people who want me dead in this world. But I can only think about my shifu, and you.”
“My shifu could not protect me, but he was the only one in this world who truly did not want me to die.”
“As for you, you are the only one of all those who want me dead who said he would care for me.”

Have you recalled it? The words I prayed you would not forget.
Ch’in Ching felt the embrace around him loosen and then the next moment snap tightly again. He reflected on feeling overjoyed and knew indeed that joy would soon be painfully over.
The horse never once slowed as it cast storm after storm behind it
And Shen Liangsheng never spoke again, only held him tightly.
Such a position made it seem as though the man was taking him, not to the end of his life.
But to the ends of the earth.

[1] Early March. The 3rd solar term that signifies the beginning of the spring planting season.
[2] A quote of Kshitigarbha, the bodhisattva of hell-beings.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: Get the tissue ready, guys and gals....

In other news, I am in Quebec City now for a three-day training session :D Est-ce qu'il y a quelqu'un qui veut rencontrer dans la ville ? Je reste à Hilton !

My Patreon is linked here if you would like to donate a buck or two monthly. Now that I am out of university, I need to work and support myself. Any small amount is a great help and alleviates financial pressure off my back :) Thank you to the Patreons who have contributed.

No comments:

Post a Comment